Paw'd Defiance Podcast Artwork Image
Paw'd Defiance
A Podcast Episode 65 Million Years in the Making
April 03, 2019 UW Tacoma Assistant Professors Uba Backonja and Christopher Schell.

UW Tacoma Assistant Professors Uba Backonja and Christopher Schell discuss their mutual love of the 1993 film Jurassic Park. Schell and Backonja credit the movie for cultivating their love of science. The pair also talk about their career paths and how students in college now can find inspiration in unlikely places. Oh, and there's at least one dinosaur impression.

Episode Transcript

Speaker 1:0:02Yeah, that was, that was more like a chicken

Speaker 2:0:09from u dub Tacoma. This is part defiance

Speaker 3:0:17welcome

Speaker 2:0:18DePaul defines where we don't lecture, but we do educate. I'm your host Maria Christophe, similar to they were talking Dyno Dna with assistant professors who will botch Kenya and Christopher show who will share their love of Jurassic Park with us. Uber. Chris, thank you for being on the pod.

Speaker 1:0:40So I'm [inaudible], I'm in my third year as an assistant professor in nursing and healthcare leadership at Udab Tacoma and I'm doing research in health technology and health informatics. And I really like figuring out how to create visuals and graphs and interesting ways of representing data that are more than just numbers. Awesome. Yeah, I'm Christopher Shell is my first year here. Uh, assistant professor in, in Sam, so science, mathematics, and I'm really interested in, in urban wildlife and cities. So how do things like coyotes and raccoons and foxes, how do they survive and cities and then how to humans drive that survival. So this kind of coevolution of sorts. Yeah.

Speaker 2:1:18So I see that you guys brought some things. Why did you bring today to the studio

Speaker 1:1:23so I can start? Um, I brought a book that I bought when I was a kid when the movie came out talking about the making of Jurassic Park. I guess I was completely obsessed with the movie. I saw it probably five times within the span of a month maybe. I remember seeing going to the theater for probably the fourth or fifth time and a tornado siren went off and, and so everyone evacuated. But I, I evacuated to. But then I just went straight back to the movie after the Tornado Siren went off. Cause I was like, I got a kid finish watching it. Right. No tornadoes going to stop me. So, um, yeah. And then I also brought a t rex and a Torah. Uh, I triceratops that my daughter had me bring because she's also loves Jurassic Park. Yeah. I I m m with Uber on is, I got a sweater for this 2018 Christmas morning with Dan.

Speaker 1:2:09Danielle got me a Christmas sweater that says Jurassic Park has got the logo. It's, yeah, super legit. It's given me a lot of street cred with my students. Um, yeah. And of course I also have a Hoodie and you know, all the apparel you could, you could think of. Um, sorry, I rocket whenever. Awesome. Yeah. The one thing that I forgot to bring was a framed picture that I have that's a Sam Neil likes your tweet. Oh, you needed something about a different movie. He did called hunt for the older people and he liked it. And of course he's my idol along with Laura dern and um, everybody in that movie. So I framed it and it's in my office.

Speaker 2:2:47Wow. I need to stop by your house. So, um, talk a little bit about Jurassic Park. So what's your favorite scene? You know, it's funny that

Speaker 1:2:58I go back and forth. I liked the second

Speaker 4:3:00one slightly better than the first one, which I know is sacrilegious to say a controversial, right? But with the first one, I always think about, and I do this a lot because you know, I'm working with coyotes that very much, or my allegory for velociraptors. So that's as close as I got to working with dinosaurs. Um, the scene where the velociraptor, the one in front is kind of eating or just being a stand in, and then the one comes in from the side and forget the characters name, but he's like clever girl and then the dude is gone. Yeah, exactly. And uh, I think about that scene all the time. I say that to my daughter sometimes can ever ground. Yeah. My favorite

Speaker 1:3:38part in eight still gives me goosebumps to this day, even though I've seen it a zillion times. It's when, um, Ellie and Dr. Grant First C, the first c the a dinosaur and just the looks on their faces and then you see the brachiosaurus for the first time and you know, Allen falls down. It's just that the APP brings me, brings me goosebumps. I love it so much. Yeah.

Speaker 4:4:02So how did that influence you? Like you, you know, you're watching it the first time and how did that inspire you to pursue science? Yeah. When I, when I watched the movies and this was particularly for the Los World, uh, I've very much like Julianne Moore's character because she was constantly talking about the behavior of the animals and how they were doing what they were doing. And, uh, it was really a psychology and animal behavior of it all. It's funny now that I do behaviorally because ecology for a living. Uh, so I'm, I'm very much thinking about how to observe things in an understand the mechanisms behind that and through that movie and you know, which again, I'm going to offer up my evidence for why I think it's almost as good as the, but man, between Jeff Goldbloom and, and, uh, Vince Vaughn and Julianne Moore, this had a lot of really good actors in it. It was something where I think it was work I could translate to what I'm doing now on animals that aren't actually dinosaurs. And that really influenced me to think of like the way animals do what they do. True.

Speaker 1:5:06Yeah. For me the, so the movie just blew my mind the first time I saw it and because there was nothing really like it. And the thing that I really liked about it was that there were scientists in it and I was a little, little nerd and there weren't that many movies about scientists that weren't like, I dunno, legitimate scientist type movies. And I just, I loved that there were these characters who are talking about science, they're talking about biology, they're doing all this deductive thinking. And there's two scenes that I kind of bring to what I do now and that have really inspired me. So there's the part where the, uh, we're, um, we're Allen and the kids run into the eggs. And so Alan sits there. I mean, they have this, this scene where you get to have Alan talked through his reasoning like, okay, so why would there be these eggs here?

Speaker 1:5:52Oh, there's some west African frogs that, um, will change spontaneously change sex and all sex and Berman that are just really loved that, you know, that thinking and reasoning. And so I do that with my work as well. So I'll like, why do certain people have higher risk of disease than others? What are some social determines of health that might be impacting people disproportionately? And just that deductive in creative thinking about how to solve a problem I really loved. And the other part that I actually bring into almost every quarter in a lecture is the quote from Jeff Goldbloom where he says that, uh, your scientists didn't stop to, your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn't stop to think about whether or not they should. And I talk about that in my data science class because you can have zillions of data points, but, and you can do all the analysis that you want on them, but whether or not you have to take a step back to say, should we analyze these data, are these the right data that we need for that? To answer a question, are these quality data and things like that. So I have a gift, but I show on every single one of my data science or visualization lectures. It's like they were there. He is telling us, you know, we have to pause and be thoughtful and purposeful in our science.

Speaker 2:7:08Hey everyone, it's Maria. I wanted to take a second to talk more about Christopher Shell. Dr Shell is an urban ecologists exploring how quotas and other kinds of birds adapt to cds he came to. You'd have to coma in the fall of 2018 Dr Shell is currently working with point defiance zoo and aquarium, northwest trek and metro parks Tacoma on the CD carnivore a project which aims to monitor urban wildlife and Tacoma. For more information about the project and Dr Shell visit the Udub Tacoma website Antiope or when it colleges and to the search bar. Okay. Back to the show. So I'm 22 and there is this pressure to have everything figured out. What do you say to students that are in doubt of their career path or life choices?

Speaker 4:7:54Yeah, I mean I would say that an Uber can probably back me up on this, but we're constantly in doubt constantly. Yeah, yeah, exactly. What we are doing, what we want to do, how we want to approach our science. The questions where you want to ask and answer. And that especially is the case, you know, even when we're kind of in that a professorial role, we're very much trying to figure out, all right, well how do I want to take this? Where do I want to take the questions? What questions am I really interested in? Um, and to also just factoring in life, right? So having a family and, and being able to be somebody who is a self sustaining hamburger, uh, that is, is important to this larger narrative of, of understanding the science, which is, it's funny because very much in, in all of the jar, well, most of the dressing that is the case with a lot of the characters is understanding the science and how the science impacts us as individuals and how we live our lives and, and what that means for how we live our lives. So I try and tell that

Speaker 1:8:56right now is the best time for you to figure out what exactly it is you want to do because you have more or less the latitude to really find yourself and understand what that means. And every few years that's going to change. And it's okay to be all right with the change, which is, it's funny because that's kind of the, the theme I see running through all of these Jurassic Park movies is that there's change and it's always constant and we have to adapt with that change. Wow. Yeah. And so with my students too, I, you know, I try to support them in thinking about, you know, if, if they want to try something, you should try it out and, you know, you might, it, it might not work out, but that's okay. You learn something. And so, I mean, that's something that happened with Jurassic Park too, is a total failure.

Speaker 1:9:38It's like, then, you know, you would think that they would learn from it, but they don't. But, um, it's, you know, yeah, that's part of science is like, you just keep on trying and like, even the fact that, you know, Ellie and Allen decided to take this chance and go to this island when this, you know, their benefactor. I mean there's, there's some power issues in they're there. They probably couldn't have said no cause they're the funder and the professors, we know how funding can really push you on that. But um, but yeah, so just like taking that chance and you're trying it out if it doesn't work out, you know, try something else. And the one thing that I really like and I integrate in my classes too is, is cooperative work and learning from each other. And that's one thing that I really love about the Jurassic Park is that it's not just one scientist making a decision.

Speaker 1:10:18It's a group effort. Like the fact that there's, what is it, 10 or 15 minutes or the sitting around at a table talking about the ethics of cloning and making new dinosaurs just blows my mind. But it's just, it's more than just one scientist. It's multiple perspectives, people working together. And that's part of what I really like about teaching is that we can create these environments where students can try that out and figure out how they can do that in their careers in the future. Wow. So now it's just like going back a little bit. Once you were in college, did you ever dealt science? Did you ever like, we're like, I'm not interested in science no more. Was there any doubt in your career path? What was that like? Oh, I tried out so many different things. I had no idea what I wanted to do.

Speaker 1:11:02Nursing is actually my second undergrad cause I tried some other stuff earlier on and it didn't totally work out. I was like, I don't want to, I wanted to try out paleontology but they didn't have that at my school. So I was like, okay, I'll do archeology. That didn't really work. And then I tried going with the hardcore core genetics route and I was like, I can't handle being in a lab at two o'clock in the morning. And I just tried so many different things and I finally found something that I liked and it kind of blended everything that I liked about health, working with people in the community, uh, working with technology, working with data, um, solving problems and uh, but it, it took time and um, I'm, I'm glad I w I had the ability to try out certain things when I was in Undergrad and I, I encourage other people to do that too, just so that they can see if something doesn't work and they can then learn from it. I tried everything. You really do need to try

Speaker 4:11:54it a lot in order to kind of find out what you want to do. A full disclaimer, I was in Undergrad, a psychology major and now I teach, you know, urban ecology. So I tried very much thought I was going to be a neurosurgeon had and workout because I volunteered at a hospital and I did not like it. You know, as an Undergrad freshmen you, you can't really do too much because of the Hipaa. But, uh, the following summer went to Dominican Republic for two months and studied of all things trenchless. Uh, so that was my first ever experience into the world of ecology, working with Tarantulas and other like or weaving spiders. I just got hooked from there. So, uh, at first I thought, all right, well maybe I'll keep going down that path. Um, but then try to give the more human side of science. So the shot, uh, which is all the more ironic that now I work in cities, very much 90% of my job is interfacing with people.

Speaker 4:12:53It's funny that I came back to it, but no, I thought it was gonna be a clinical psychologist at one point. Social Psychologists, um, you know, again, neuroscientists, some type of MD and ultimately ended up in, in biology and all of the themes, all of the stuff I learned from trying, I still kind of implement a lot of that into what I do. So they're a little life lessons here and there that I picked up that he just put in my backpack and I feel like I can use them now because I see the full picture. So what are some of the classes that you teach?

Speaker 4:13:25So I teach in the Undergrad Master's program in nursing, healthcare leadership. I teach critical thinking and writing, which again, like I tried to bring in what I learned from dressing that critical thinking stuff that I teach intro to health informatics and for both undergraduate I healthcare leadership students, masters nursing students and health analytics. And that's where I talk a lot. Jurassic Park comes up, let and then also leadership, uh, for the undergraduate nursing course. And I actually use John Hammond as an example of a laissez faire leader in that class. So, so drastic part comes up a lot even though you would think, why would it come up in analytics? Why would it come up in leadership? It's there. You can find ways to make Jurassic Park finish any class. That's awesome. Yeah, I teach pretty much bio one. Um, as, as a cornerstone class, I'll be teaching every year during the winter 20, 19 and in there I blend a lot of Jurassic Park.

Speaker 4:14:25But then also all things marvel, all things d c, uh, anything you can think of that's some type of pop culture reference. I feel like I used, I use biggie at one point. Oh I use cost x files. Yeah. I mean it's, it's good to be able to kind of create those heuristics and make those cognitive links so that way students can also see all of the links. So very much bio one and then, uh, pretty soon here I'm going to be doing an urban ecology class, so getting students out into the field, which is, you know, for us, just Tacoma, pierce, Pierce County and all the areas around it and a couple of upper level courses that have not yet been developed bar in the works. So hopefully a lot, a lot of stack ranking. Just kind of put some drops here and there. Little bit of Jurassic Park and each class.

Speaker 4:15:12Yeah, that's, that is a goal. So now like kind of like touching base on the students, um, a lot of people don't think about like, you know, movie is going to influence you somehow in your career path. What do you say about that? Well, it's funny, you don't quite realize at the moment that something may influence you and it's only until later that you start thinking about maybe some lines in a movie. Right. I constantly think about when Jeff Goldbloom says lifelines away. Yup. Title of a talk that has that in the title. You need to have that be a title of a paper or something. Yeah. Hashtag life goals there. I did that once with a star trek reference. So you can do it in possible, uh, Uber is teaching you so much. Uh, yeah. Sometimes you may not think of it and then all of a sudden they may just clicking you like there something that's been brewing for a long time and it somehow unconsciously changes the way in which you see the world changes your worldview and all of a sudden you're like, man, all right, well maybe Jurassic Park did have a big role in influence and it wasn't because dinosaurs were eating people or you know, blood was raining from waterfalls and was more just the way in which they reason.

Speaker 4:16:25The way in which they actually use a scientific method is something that I can adopt here. In this particular example. For instance, right now I work at sometimes as captive coyote facility out in Millville, Utah and the whole Velossa raptor attacking from the side thing I think about constantly because coyotes, when they're approaching people, they don't approach from the front. They approached from the back in the side, oh boy. Literally you will see something in your periphery and say what is that? And they really just are kind of curious to see what your going to do cause they're, you know, just trying to rouse you. But it's funny that I oftentimes think of that scene and then think, okay, that's not a philosopher. Happy dog.

Speaker 1:17:11Um, for me it crystallizes later, especially after watching it every time I, every time I watch him in different place in my life and I see new things in it and then it makes me realize even more how much it made an influence on me when I was younger. Especially being a little nerd. It's this movie was something that I thought about all the time. Yeah. And even if I in back of my subconscious, um, it wasn't something that was totally conscious all the time. But yeah, having that hindsight 20 is 20, 20 perspective, I wasn't always aware about how much I loved that loved the movie and how much it influenced me. But it's, it's definitely there and it, it was unexpected. I never thought probably when I was however old I was when the movie came out that a dinosaur movie would make such a big impact on me.

Speaker 1:17:57But I think it like, you're like you're saying where it's, it's more than just a movie about dinosaurs. It's a movie about people working together. It's about those human relationships. It's about how people problem solve and it's the whole ecosystem of the movie. In other words, we've seen ecosystem, I guess. Um, or should I, should I throw in some movie theory, Meson Sane or whatever? Um, part of the movie where it's, there's so much more going on that's more about life in general and working with people and, and solving problems and just, you know, it's a dinosaur eating someone off the toilet. That scene was really fun. Yeah.

Speaker 2:18:39We'll get back to the show in just a moment, but first let's hear more about [inaudible]. Mia, Dr Aubuchon yesterday you dept Tacoma in the fall of 2016 she teaches chorus in the nursing and health care leadership program. Dr [inaudible] research focuses on health informatics. She's currently working with share northwest on your project to address rural health disparities in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, and Alaska. You can reductor [inaudible] story on the Udub Tacoma website by typing data visualization into the search bar. So when we walked in, you guys were talking about x files and x men. Can you talk a little bit more about that but is it,

Speaker 1:19:20yeah. Yeah, so it turns out we said, we just met here for this recording in 30 minutes and it turns out that we also are really huge x men fans. And um, that was it. Just this came up just now ladies, I'm really huge in the x files too. But yeah, x men was another thing along with Jurassic Park. You did too when I was a kid. And so yeah, I have an integrated x men as much in my teaching is I should, I didn't think about that. Let goals, right? Yeah. For me it's, it's more or less kind of a gimme. Chris, you need to do it right now. I don't see why you wouldn't because in bio one we talk about mutation. Yeah. We talk about natural selection and we talk about a gene flow and genetic drift and all of these things at its Peretz real awesome to just be able to slide x men on right in there.

Speaker 1:20:04And I like it so much because again, you know, if we're nerding out and I'm being real with myself, that's my favorite comic all times. And the stories itself are, are really interesting. And, and looking back at the stories and how they originated, we're based loosely off of the, the struggles in terms of the civil rights movement and the movements between Martin Luther King Junior and Malcolm x and very much those two kind of respectively embody professor x and Magneto and how theirs is very much a struggle between and within communities of people and understanding difference and how to be inclusive of that difference. And also not to fear it. And the approach by which you take to tackling that, which you know, and in our universe is racism and their universes powers, but very much, I always saw that struggle of I want to be able to do good and integrate everybody.

Speaker 1:21:02And then on the other side, it's, well the struggle is way too hard. They're never going to accept us, so just burn it all down. Uh, and that dichotomy I think exists with a lot of people that are part of non dominant communities. So, you know, I'm African American, Uber as a woman, we very much are, are facing within even the scientific community, let alone the world. Just like how do we face these everyday microaggressions and get past them to be able to then do our jobs. So that's why x men for me was just so powerful and a very realistic way that you have magneto. He's not a villain. He is kind of an antihero and it's, he is really complicated and that's life. And that's why I really didn't like the superman comics because it was just, you have perfect superman. He is totally invincible except for Kryptonite.

Speaker 1:21:51And then you have Lex Luther and he's just the epitome of evil. He's terrible. That's not life. It's not interesting. I never really liked it. And so that's why I really loved x men because it was, it really captured the variety of ways that life exists and in this mutant world. And it's, it was just really interesting to see how these little social experiments work out in the comics. And you know, they, you might not see, you may or may not see parallels in real life, but sometimes they do show up in real life. And so you're like, oh yeah, this x men stuff is kind of relevant. And that's why it's interesting and compelling. And plus there's, you know, super awesome people in there like Rogan, wolverine and stuff. So it makes it fun. But, uh, yeah. And also the nineties cartoon, if you, if you could have a power, which would it be?

Speaker 1:22:36Oh Man, I think about that all the time. I can never come up with an answer. I don't know nobody. Yeah, I fluctuate some days I want Cryo kinesis. Kinesis. The ability to freeze things with your mind and telekinesis, the ability to read minds and also move stuff. Yes. So, yeah. Yeah. So mind stuff. So gray and Bobby had a kid. Oh yeah, there you go. That would be my two favorite. I love Wolverine because he's just, he's a dude of y'all haven't seen Logan by the way. Yup. Fire intense. Have you watched the black and wait [inaudible] yeah, I have an eye. If I know we were talking about Eczema would have brought in my [inaudible] Wolverine Donald with the retractable claws and your talks from when the 2000 and they came out. My daughter plays with it. We could do a second. We could, yeah. So she like pretends that will reenter baby also her American girl doll. And they were like her like blending of worlds anyway. Yeah, yeah. X Mins. Great. And it's also like, yeah, grateful talking about science, like you were saying. I mean, I kind of wish I was geneticists

Speaker 4:23:46just so I can start. I did a lot more. So let's touching base with a bit of a drastic park. What do you think about the new movies? I have not seen them. Uh, the on purpose because I love the original ones so much that I just have not, I just can't, but I, I'm sure I will someday. Yeah. I am a purist and I both have strong opinions. I have seen this, the last two, the latest drastic worlds and the Jurassic world. The first one was pretty good. It was, it had a lot of allegory from the first movie. Uh, and of course anything with BD Wong and it is just stellar. All the things. So one is so good. Exactly. All of the characters in that movie too. There we go. He's spend another podcast. But yeah, I think the fact that like BD Wong and that movie pretty much just throws a lot of shade on some fan theories about how these dinosaurs are not actually dinosaurs are not actually what was living.

Speaker 4:24:48This is, you know, just a science experiment gone horribly wrong and we're the ones controlling. It was kind of a funny and comical and Sardonic and all of the things, the second Jurassic world movie. However, that not only was too short, but also, I mean, there were clones in their human clones and then one of the human clones had decided that it was okay to let dinosaurs roam the main continent of North America. So then you end the movie with dinosaurs interacting in suburbs and it's like, okay, I get that. I, I liked the fact that we're going to go to another level, but it was just, it was kind of a layup that missed the hoop. Um, so it didn't really work too well. Again, if you had scrubbed all the people out of that movie and just let the dinosaurs and it probably would have been good.

Speaker 4:25:33So we'll see if they actually get to some existential thought about how it is to interact with species that were, you know, a hundred million years dead and then now all of a sudden they are with you. So how do you coexist and that, I mean, that is the underlying factor of my job. So if they do a good job on that, cool. But I'm going to be great and I'm real hard. That'd be really nice. If they had, they kind of took a step back and said, it's the same thing with the marvel cinematic universe where every single movie has to be even bigger. It same thing with the x men movie movies. That's why age of apocalypse was what it was and so right. Just like every single SQL has to be even more big, even more CGI. What's, what I really like about the original one is because they didn't have all that sophisticated technology and they really had to focus some more on how people interact with other people, how they interact with the dinosaurs and having those conversations where you can talk about things where you're like, that doesn't totally make sense that there's a clone doing whatever it was doing.

Speaker 4:26:31Um, it would be nice if they just kind of like took a pause and just like chilled out for a little bit and if they make an x and say, let's have a conversation about what's going on. And like maybe that would be interesting as, as much as like a exploding and

Speaker 1:26:45stuff. I remember whatever was on the trailer. But yeah, that's, that would be my hope, I guess. Yeah. Some of it lost raptor or t regs. Oh, I have to go with t rex. I'm sorry. I know what, what's your argument? What's your argue? I just really don't have one. I mean, I don't, I love lots of rafters there. Awesome. Um, I guess it's probably just that final scene of the original one where you have the big, you know, the t rex kind of saving the day is like, kind of like the anti hero and the velociraptors are trying to overcome it with stealth and numbers, but it doesn't, the TRX still survives, but, um, I guess that's probably it. I mean, the velociraptors are way smarter and way more cunning. So theoretically I should like them. I don't know. It's probably just that last week for just, I'm with you.

Speaker 1:27:33The last scene in and the first Jurassic Park and also the last scene in the first dress at world, the TMX oftentimes is the one that comes to the rescue. However, will you work with the coyotes, which are, yeah, for the record, if we're being legitimate science nerds, the velociraptors half again to [inaudible] credit than they have on screen are more closely related to, or what would look like a dynamic is not a pass around, which a velociraptor would have been like a medium sized dog. But that being said, the fact they're really smart, if they're trainable, that constantly you're learning about animal behavior and the fact that they could potentially outsmart you all of the time. You have to be on your toes. Yeah, I liked that. And I liked that they had that, that they, they were able to choose the dinosaur that theoretically was smart, like the Treo Don's in that family family to where it's like Dave have the bigger brains. And so having that element of not just like brute strength, which t-rex Kinda has having that smarts in there too. And you know, that could be on the same level as humans. Not really, but you know, that they could be, you know, um, you know, working against the humans in some sort of wane cognitively on par with them is really fun. All they miss those feathers.

Speaker 1:28:54Feathers. Nice. Plumage Yep. So before we started recording, you said you could do an impression, right? I will do my best attempt at a velociraptor screech, which will probably be terrible, but it may actually sound good on a podcast. That was, that was more like a chicken. This is as close as I think I could get. Could you do the Jeff Goldbloom laugh on the helicopter. There you go. There you go. I practiced that a lot. That long, awkward laugh right there. Do you have any impressions? Just the Jeff Goldblum laughing the very strangely

Speaker 4:29:42on a helicopter for a really long time. Gold, pure gold. Go back and watch the original movies. They're solid. They really are so good. They're so good. Thank you to our guests and a big thing. Get to our senior lecturer, Nicole Blair for letting us play your music on the show. Thank you to moon y'all recording studio and thank you for joining us today.

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